G.R.R. Martin may need to get his books done, but he has an important point about the how the studios are going to ruin the future of television:
The juniors may have worked for as long as half a year on the show. All of it in a room, with other writers. But they won’t be part of the casting. They won’t be meeting with the director. They won’t be at the table read. No one will bring them into the editing suite so the editor can explain what he is doing. The line producer will not sit down and go over the budget with them (as Harvey Frand did with me), or patiently explain why they can’t have nine matte paintings or that huge montage. They won’t be sharing lunch with the stars. If a stuntman’s nose is cut off, they will need to read about it VARIETY, since they will be off in another room on another show.
Mini-rooms are abominations, and the refusal of the AMPTP to pay writers to stay with their shows through production — as part of the JOB, for which they need to be paid, not as a tourist — is not only wrong, it is incredibly short sighted. If the Story Editors of 2023 are not allowed to get any production experience, where do the studios think the Showrunners of 2033 are going to come from?Writers On Set | Not a Blog (georgerrmartin.com)
He is precisely correct. By having only the top and very bottom of the ladder and by ensuring that the top has little to no time t spend on training the bottom, eventually, the top crumbles. You are then left with no one who can actually run important aspects of the business or, more importantly, understand them well enough to improve or expand upon them. What then?
I am sure if you hooked media executives up to a truth telling machine, they would say that AI will write and produce their shows for them in the next few years. That is nonsense, of course. No AI — which is only a machine that guesses what word or pixel comes next based on previous text or pictures — can ever fully have the context necessary to run something as complicated as a television show. It will almost certainly never be able to produce shootable scripts, or even scripts that can be turned into shootable scripts because the proper context exists outside its training sets.
But even that answer is a rationalization, since they introduced these systems long before this round of AI hype. The simple answers is that the studios are run by giant corporations who are in turn run by finance people concerned only with Wall Street’s opinion of their short-term growth — not their profit, their short-term growth. And so they wish to keep every cost down in the expectation that keeping costs down will allow profits to grow in the short term. Anything beyond that is not their concern. They will have cashed out by then.
You can see the same impulse in almost every industry. Uber is a taxi company, but because it has an app, it was able to offload the costs of insurance, maintenance, fuel, etc. onto its drivers, who it also underpays. It then uses those savings to try and hyper-charge its growth into a monopoly (it won’t work — the barriers to entry are too low in that field and Uber gives neither its drivers not its riders a reason to lock into Uber as compared to one of its competitors.). Manufacturing offshored its capability, trying to leave design in the hands of people onshore. But how can that work in the long term if the people who design products don’t understand how they are actually built? They won’t be in a position to understand the best way to manufacture the goods they come up with, and thus won’t be able to iterate or improve upon designs as effectively. IBM Thinkpads became Lenovo Thinkpads in part because of this dynamic, and it can be argued that part of the reason Apple’s pace of innovation has slowed is because of this dynamic. It does not explain the entirety of those events, but it does appear to have contributed.
The WGA is striking in response to a sickness in American business. Short-term growth is the only thing that matters. The studios are wildly profitable business, made so by the very people they are trying to impoverish. But by doing so, they are undercutting the very process that makes it possible for them to continue to be profitable in the longer term. But no one in business cares about the medium to long term, because no one business care about business. They care about finance, about making Wall Street happy. And that means only caring about the short-term growth. If we want a healthy economy, we have to break that mindset. We have to punish companies that look to short-term growth above all else and reward those that lok to sustainable operations, to the long term. Our tax and laws and regulations have to be adjusted to reward the smart, not the vicious.
Or all we are going to be left with is a few financiers sitting atop the ruins of an economy that employs no one other than those financers yes-men and waiters.